Monthly Archives: December 2013

An Unexpected Holiday Gift

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YVCKC - elderly project from 2000s_croppedI’ll never forget the students I met at Associated Youth Services Academy, an alternative school for middle and high school students who are long-term suspended from the Kansas City, Kansas, school system.

While serving as a Team Leader with YVC of Greater Kansas City, I worked with these students twice a week as part of an In School service program to bring transformational YVC service projects to youth who may otherwise not have the opportunity to volunteer.

During the holiday season, the students and I made cards to deliver to residents at Posada del Sol, a nearby retirement home. My class consisted of 10 or 12 students, most of whom were older teens and only one was a girl. Needless to say, they were less than excited to spend a class period doing what they considered to be ‘girly crafts.’

It wasn’t until the following week when we delivered the cards that the students really got the message.

We knocked on each door and gave each resident a handmade card and wished them a happy holiday. I had never witnessed these students being shy during any of my lessons, but when we knocked on the first door, they all became sheepish. Then the resident came out and flashed a huge smile at our gesture, and the students started arguing over who got to deliver the next card.

Each student made an impression on the residents that day, but 16 year-old James truly touched one lady’s heart. She couldn’t have been 5’ tall and must have weighed less than 100 lbs., which created quite a contrast next to 6’4”, 300 lb. James.

James gave her the card, and she started crying—explaining how this was her first Christmas without her beloved sister, and she was so grateful to have someone think of her.

She was able to reach up to give James a hug, and I will never forget the image of that beautifully awkward gesture. She didn’t know that James was a struggling student caught up in drugs and violence. She just saw him as another human being showing he cared about her.

Lacey Helmig is the Communications and Media Coordinator for YVC. She began with YVC as an AmeriCorps member in 2009, where she learned from Youth Volunteers the most efficient way to mulch a nature center trail, how to play Ninja, and the undeniable fact that youth can change the world.

Would you like to give a gift this holiday season that has the potential to be just as transformational as James’ handmade card? Donate to YVC to help show youth like James the joy of giving back.

Volunteering in the U.S. 2013 Stats

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Did you know that teenagers volunteer more than the general public? The Corporation for National and Community Service released their annual Volunteering and Civic Life in America 2013 study this week.

We were excited by the results for a few reasons:

Youth volunteerism has been steadily increasing over the past six years (up by 3% total since 2007).

– 1 in 4 Americans of all ages volunteer.

Volunteers have a 27% higher chance of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers (so just imagine how great volunteering in middle or high school looks on future college applications and job applications!).

Utah is the top state for volunteering, with 43.8% of its residents serving an average of 81.4 hours per year each. YVC of Iron County, Utah, is one of the top YVC programs for the number of hours each Youth Volunteer serves, so we have to think they’ve had something to do with their state’s success!

Check out the graphic below with more details on the study’s results:

Volunteering in America 2013 Infographic

Thanks to the Corporation for National and Community Service for compiling this information about all the great things volunteers in America are doing. See the Volunteering in America website for more information and the full results of the study.

A YVC Experience 15 Years Later

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Julia at NCVS

Julia at YVC’s booth at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this summer.

Growing up in the suburbs of Camden, New Jersey, Julia Gumminger never thought twice about having socks to wear. “I had so many pairs of socks I didn’t even wear,” she said.

But when she volunteered with YVC of Camden County as a high school student in the late 1990s, she learned that not everyone had this luxury. Armed with a trash bag full of socks donated by a local department store, she and her team of YVC Youth Volunteers distributed socks to homeless people gathered at a BBQ lunch sponsored by a local nonprofit.

Julia was surprised when people would come up to her with all kinds of stories—so desperate for another pair of socks. “That really struck me—how such a basic need isn’t met,” she said.

Julia first signed up to volunteer with YVC of Camden County sorting food at the local food bank after seeing an ad for YVC in the newspaper. They sorted food all day for most of the summer, providing countless meals for hungry members of their community.

Their horizons were expanded as they went to sections of the city they weren’t used to and met different kinds of people. “As a suburban kid, it was an adventure,” she said. She describes Camden as a very poor city—“Take any bad neighborhood of any city and make an entire city of it,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunity for volunteer work.” Volunteering with YVC exposed her to new parts of the city outside the suburbs she was used to and gave her opportunity to interact with people she may have never met.

Years later, Julia is living in another urban area in Baltimore, and she’s working to give other youth the kinds of opportunities that broaden their horizons too. She’s an Assistant Program Manager at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University, planning educational enrichment programs for academically gifted and talented high school students and their families.

Through this work, she saw that many of these academically advanced students were aware of problems in the world but didn’t always know how to help, so she spearheaded a service-learning program to give these youth an experience like her YVC experience.

“People just need an extra pair of hands to get things done,” she said. “It might just be an hour a week, but that hour is really important. I don’t believe that age restricts people from volunteering—there are a lot of different kinds of jobs. Little hands and big hands can all do things—it just depends on what people are bringing to the table.”

A big thanks to Julia for her service with YVC and beyond!

Are you a former YVC Youth Volunteer? We’d love to reconnect with you and hear your story. Email Lacey at [email protected] to get in touch with us.

Youth Volunteer Corps, 1025 Jefferson St., Kansas City, MO 64105

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